Avengers Arena #2

Issue Date: 
February 2013
Story Title: 
Deadly Allies

Dennis Hopeless (writer), Kev Walker (artist), Frank Martin with Jean-Francois Beaulieu (colorista), VCs Joe Caramagna (letterer), Chris Bachalo and Tim Townsend (cover artists), Michael Avon Oeming and Nick Filardi (variant cover artists), Jon Moisan (assistant editor), Bill Rosemann (editor), Axel Alonso (editor in chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)

Brief Description: 

Arcade has murdered Avengers Academy student Mettle in front of fifteen other young heroes. Rebecca Ryker is shocked, as is Red Raven who takes flight. She quickly flies vertically in order to escape but hits an invisible forcefield and plummets to the ground, dead. Hazmat and some others go to her but members of the Braddock Academy decide to head off into the forest, stopping only for Apex to see what happens when Rebecca Ryker approaches Hazmat. Rebecca tells Hazmat that she feels sorry for her, but Hazmat responds by lashing out at her. Rebecca responds instinctively by blasting Hazmat, but her power doesn’t seem to affect her too much. Hazmat fires back and Rebecca runs into the forest to escape. As she walks, she remembers how she came home to find her mother and brother at home with a Deathlok standing beside them. He killed them both and the explosion also ripped Rebecca to pieces. Her thoughts are interrupted when Cammi leaps from a tree and warns her not to move. She’s about to step on a landmine. Rebecca thanks her for the save, but Cammi keeps her distance and warns her to keep walking. Rebecca leaves and then remembers how her scientific-genius father failed to bring his wife back to life, but succeeded with her. He used cybernetics to keep her alive and managed to augment her, giving her weaponry into the bargain. Kid Briton then finds Rebecca walking in the woods and takes her to their camp. Nara is unfriendly but Apex takes Rebecca under her wing and introduces everyone. Rebecca then remembers waking up in hospital with her father no longer around. Dr. Kuhlman treats her and provides her with a mirror so she can see what her father did to her. Her cybernetics are way beyond what they are familiar with. In the present, Rebecca laughs at how ridiculous this day has been.

Full Summary: 

(Murderworld, Day 1)
The villain Arcade has murdered Mettle in cold blood. Thirty seconds later and Rebecca Ryker is still in a state of shock. Blood splatters begin to dry on her panda T-shirt as she looks around at the other assembled heroes. Red Raven is equally stunned. Rebecca’s dad says that life is complicated until yours is on the line. He says that if you back somebody all the way into a corner, you can watch their whole life boil down to multiple choices. Fight… or flight. Red Raven turns and looks at her and she decides to take the latter option. Rebecca’s dad also says that, no matter which one you pick or how it turns out, the rest of your life will be defined by a split-second decision.

Red Raven flies almost vertically at great speed. She doesn’t get far before she slams into an invisible wall, face first. She plummets to the ground and lands with a sickening thump. “Oop!” says Arcade. “Did I forget to mention the ceiling? Yeah, that’s on me.” As Hazmat, Reptil and X-23 go to check on Red Raven, Rebecca thinks back to another thing dad likes to say. It’s that people worry too much about making friends when what they really need are allies. “Friends make you weaker, sweetheart,” he says. “Allies make you stronger.” She wishes her daddy were there so she could ask him, ‘What does being alone make you?’

A group consisting of Kid Briton, Apex, Bloodstone, Nara and Anachronism head off into the forest. Warily, Rebecca walks towards Red Raven and the group around her. Kid Briton tells Apex that they’re going, but Apex wants to see how this plays out. Rebecca tells Hazmat that she’s sorry for what Arcade did to her boyfriend. She’s sorry for her. “You’re sorry for me!” Jenny snarls. X-23 tells her not to rise to this, but Jenny tells Rebecca that she doesn’t get to feel sorry for her. She asks if she thinks she is weak! Does she think she can take her now that she’s seen her cry? “Well bring it the *&%@$ on!” She tells Rebecca that she doesn’t know her and doesn’t have anything to lose.

As a stunned Rebecca wonders how to respond, her robotic eye flares up and her bionic hand opens up to revel a glowing energy source. Instinctively, she aims it at Hazmat and fires. Hazmat is enveloped in a blanket of energy. Watching, Apex is impressed that she didn’t give in lightly. Rebecca looks at her arm and asks herself, ‘What did I…” Unfortunately for her, Hazmat’s suit isn’t even affected and she glares at her new enemy. “Nice try,” she says as she opens fire herself. Rebecca makes a run for it, saying sorry all the way until she’s out of sight.

(forever ago)
It’s 5:25 am and Rebecca is swimming. Her coach thinks she’s trying to swim the lap more than one second faster than she swam it yesterday… at 5:25am. The truth is, she couldn’t care less. She’s never liked swimming. It’s cold and boring and the chlorine dries her skin out. But, when she told her dad that, he said it didn’t matter. He said ‘competition builds character. Keep at it.’ She was eight at the time and had no idea what that meant. But, she did what he said and kept on swimming every morning, five days a week for six years. Her coach says she’s one of the best swimmers in the state now. Practice makes perfect, right? She still doesn’t like swimming much, but hey - she’s built up a lot of character.

Sometime later, Rebecca is walking home when she realizes her mom’s in. As she enters the house she tells her that it’s her. Lying, she says that she knows she’s supposed to go straight to school from practice, but it’s quiz bowl night and she forgot her laptop from the den. She promises not be late to class. As she speaks, she notices her mother kneeling on the floor holding her little brother. Beside her, a grim-looking Deathlok holds a weapon to her head. Without a word, he shoots and the whole place goes up in flames. Her mother and brother are killed immediately and Rebecca is torn apart by the explosion. She’s not sure if this is the sort of thing that builds character, but it seems like it might be. Either way she bet she wouldn’t have to swim again for a while.

Alone, Rebecca makes her way through the snow-covered forest wearing only the panda T-shirt and a pair of shorts. A voice from above orders her to stop right there and not make a move. Rebecca freezes and Cammi drops from a tree, warning her to do exactly what she says or she dies. She aims a pistol at Rebecca and tells her to pull her robot legs away. She’s about to stand on a land mine. Rebecca looks down and notices the trigger peeping through the snow. Cammi then tells her to take two steps backward and then walk directly to her. Smiling, Rebecca thanks her profusely. She tells Cammi that all day she’s been thinking how impossible it would be to survive there alone and then she pops down from a tree and saves her idiot life.

She extends her hand and introduces herself as Becca. Cammi retains her position, keeping the gun aimed at her and replies that maybe she used to be a Becca, but now she’s a flesh-wrapped killbot murder machine. While she’s sure the meaty part of her brain is sweet as kittens, the rest of her is Deathlok… ette. Becca is confused, so Cammi informs her that the only reason she spoke up is that her tree would have been covered in shrapnel. That’s about as friendly as she gets. She points the weapon at Becca’s forehead and tells her to walk away. She should keep her eyes on the snow this time so she doesn’t blow them both to hell!

(sometime after the bomb)
In a medlab, Harlan Ryker is standing over the body of his wife who lies on the slab under a white sheet. A verbal computer diagnosis informs him that there is zero brain activity and a cybernetic symbiosis failure. ‘Subject Anna Ryker is unresponsive.’ Harlan says they don’t get to fail this time. This is his family. This is his wife! She’s not some frozen army corpse. The computer adds, ‘Subject Rebecca Ryker: online. Cybernetic symbiosis complete.’ Harlan turns and he lowers his face mask. He thanks God. He tells Rebecca that she’s in a bad way but he can fix this. He can make her better. He grabs a drill and goes to work on her, splattering himself with her blood. As he works, he says that the rebels have tried it before. They sent one of his Deathlok’s back from the future to kill him before he could invent the technology. He honestly never gave this much thought. He’s well protected and frankly, time travel is far beyond these idiots. They never get the year right. Though if he’d known they’d attack the house

(sometime later)
Harlan continues to work on Rebecca. He tells her, despite the fact she cannot hear him yet, that he’s never worked with living issue before so this is a revelation. In the past, the cybernetic brain has done the lion’s share of the work but her brain is alive and mostly intact. She will have all the practical benefits of the Deathlok but she will still be Rebecca. When they’re through the possibilities are endless. A buzz attracts his attention. He wonders if whoever it is doesn’t see the light on the door which means he’s busy.

He opens the door to find several S.H.I.E.L.D. agents there, two of whom are aiming pistols at him. One informs him that he has a warrant to search his premises. It turns out that the government agencies get nervous when their weapons scientists cut off communications and lock themselves in bunkers. They will be seizing any unauthorized or illegal science experiments. He notices Rebecca lying there. As Harlan is cuffed he warns her not to touch her. She’s all he has left!

It’s now night-time and Kid Briton has found Becca walking in the woods and taken her to camp. He ‘jokes’ to his friends that he’s found a Deathlok who has come to kill them in their sleep. Becca falls to the ground. A tear runs down her cheek as she assures them that she isn’t there to kill anybody. It was just cold and snowy and she saw their fire. Nara puts her booted foot on Becca’s head and says, “A fire, yeah? Well, take a closer look.” Cullen Bloodstone says that it seems that they’re already quite good at the ‘dandy nutter’s’ murder game. Anachronism asks him to leave it but Bloodstone adds, with more than a hint of sarcasm, that they’ve already caught their first kill and you can tell this one’s a proper villain by the panda bear on her T-Shirt.

Nara replies that by all means they should let her go. “Baby Bloodstone and big red think her outfit is adorable.” If they let her go, she’ll just come back later. Kill or be killed, she adds. “Do it.” Becca begs them not to and Kid Briton asks her to provide one reason why they shouldn’t. Apex offers a reason herself, namely that Kid Briton would cry himself to sleep the next three weeks. Kid Briton warns Bloodstone off but Apex says that it was actually her who said that, adding that he should do them all a favor, put his sword away and cook the bunnies. She extends her hand to Becca and asks her to hop up. Nobody is going to hurt her. She has her word on that.

Becca sits by the fire and tries to get warm. She thanks Apex who says that she very much questions her boyfriend’s ability to kill anything, let alone a Deathlok. “That’s your boyfriend?” asks Becca. Apex replies that he is. She offers to give Becca the whole rundown on everyone all at once. She explains that the Braddock Academy’s brightest, in no particular order, begin with Kid Briton. He is an alternative universe Captain Britain who is pretty but sometimes parades around like a cocky twit. And yes, he’s her boyfriend. She shouldn’t judge too harshly, though. She spends most of the year with relatively limited options. Next to him is Nara, who sits with her arms folded and a scowl that could sink a ship. She is the one who might actually have killed her. She is an Atlantean with abandonment issues so it’s hard to blame her for being violent. She kind of hearts her. Becca’s mileage may vary.

She then looks over to the other two and Apex wonders what to say about them. The little one, she explains, is Bloodstone of the monster hunter Bloodstones. He’s brilliant in a frowny face sort of way and probably a lot more formidable than he looks. But, she’s never known anyone put more energy into being unpopular. The big scary guy next to him is called Aiden who wants his codename to be Anachronism. It’s six months since he inherited the body of an immortal Celtic warlord. Yet, he has the self-confidence of a chubby video gamer stuffed down in a bag of crisps.

She continues the introductions with herself, Katy Bashir. She can fly, but not very fast. It’s obviously the lamest super power of the lot. But, she has her plusses. Her mother says she’s quick as a whip and experience tells her that she can talk people into just about anything. “Your turn,” she says. Becca admits that she didn’t go to super hero school. She didn’t even know those existed. Apex asks her to start easy. No one’s judging. She should start with her name. Rebecca offers her name. She says that the tiny space marine called her Death Locket or something. That’s probably more appropriate now.

Apex reckons Death Locket sounds like a pop group. ”Mysterious teenaged Deathlok with those baby doll eyes and a candy code name.” She reckons she’d have them lined up around the corner back home. She then realizes something. Isn’t her dad Harlan Ryker, the Prometheus of modern cybernetics? She apologizes for geeking out on her, but she has this thing for scientists… geniuses. It’s a bit of an obsession. Her friends had their footballers but she had Reed Richard’s poster on one side of her bed and Tony Stark on the other. “And my dad?” asks Becca. Apex assures her that he was strictly a little girl brain crush. Nothing down and dirty. She tells Becca that she is officially her coolest friend… built to outlast the apocalypse and trained for the end of the world. “Ha!” laughs Becca. “Trained….”

(the day Rebecca woke up)
With her father arrested and spirited away somewhere, Rebecca wakes up in a lab. A doctor introduces himself as Dr. Kuhlman and he informs her that she’s in the hospital. He thinks she’s going to be just fine. He asks if she can tell him how much she remembers about everything that’s happened. Rebecca replies that a robot thing came back in time and blew up their house. It killed mom and Bryan. She got hurt but she guesses her dad fixed her. She saw her brain, she thinks, then… She pauses and asks where her dad is. Dr. Kuhlman tells her that her dad’s safe but he’s been through a lot and can’t really help them with her.

He informs her that he’s a cybernetics expert but her father’s work is next level. They’ve been studying her for weeks and he still has no idea what her father has done to her. The hardware, the software, the programming… it’s all so advanced and experimental. Her father didn’t share it with anyone. He tells her that she’s alive and awake but beyond that they don’t really know what’s happened to her or how it’s going to behave from now on.

Rebecca asks him what he’s talking about. What did her dad do to her? Dr. Kuhlman apologizes. She remembered so much he assumed she knew. He hands her a mirror and leaves the room, telling her that they think she’ll be okay. They’re just not sure how long it will take to understand her cybernetics or train her to use them. Becca looks at herself in the mirror and a tear trickles down her cheek. One side of her face is flesh, the other metal. Scarring around her mouth hints at what lies underneath.

Becca laughs nervously. Apex asks, “What did I say?” Becca tells her it’s nothing. She’s just had a really long day.

Characters Involved: 

Anachronism (Aiden), Apex (Katy Bashir), Bloodstone (Cullen Bloodstone), Cammi, Darkhawk (Chris Powell), Hazmat (Jennifer Takeda), Kid Briton, Nico Minoru, Nara, Red Raven (Dania), Reptil (Humberto Lopez), Ryker (Rebecca Ryker or Death Locket), Juston Seyfert, Chase Stein, X-23 (Laura Kinney)

(in flashback)
Rebecca’s swim coach
A Deathlok
Harlan Ryker, his wife and son

S.H.I.E.L.D. agents
Dr. Kuhlman

Story Notes: 

DEAD: Mettle, Red Raven

Apex, Anachronism and Rebecca Ryker all have their first name revealed here.

The blade that Kid Briton carries glows as if on fire.

The cover of the issue is an homage to one of the covers to William Golding’s novel, The Lord of the Flies.

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